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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Fri Aug 12, 2016 9:11 am

You may recall in a previous post we raised the various merits of using a classic Amiga computer for Word processing for day-to-day writing. (Generally, “classic” refers to machines running OS 1.x - 3.1.)

The only real missing piece, for this reviewer, was actual software that hit “all the right buttons”, much like WordStar did for Mr. George Martin on MS-DOS, and didn't feel like complete work to use.

We needed something that provided “three legs to support the stool”, which included
  • Legibility. The Amiga’s bitmap screen font is a very easy to read font. Many of its proprietary vector (a.k.a. compugraphic) fonts were very hard on the eyes and made real writing a huge issue (for this author, at least).
  • Basic formatting. At a minimum this would include bold, italics, underlining, paragraph tabbing and other basic formatting. Paragraph breaks are an absolute must, of course.
  • Transferability. The saved text file should be able to be created on the Amiga and easily transferred to a PC or Mac, with very little “fixing” needed between platforms. Without this, what's the point?
We looked at several packages that can still be found and used on original Amiga hardware, including: TextCraft, Excellence and WordWorth 4SE. WordWorth was by far the most capable technologically, but still horrible on the eyes and rather clunky in the UI department - plus it was intended for A1200 hardware and beyond. It was developed up to version 7 in 1998 four years after Commodore ceased to exist. But WordWorth 7 was developed for OS4, not 3.1 or earlier systems, and was on CD-ROM as well.

Did a cross-platform Word Processor ever truly exist that could be used today, beyond what was discussed before under the required parameters? For what it’s worth, many of the afore mentioned classic word processors were fine for the Amiga back in the day when you never needed to leave the system.

Ever since this quest began, in the back of my mind I knew if there was any chance of finding the right software package it was likely to come from a larger U.S. publisher, not a small shop or weekend warrior. WordPerfect always seemed to beckon, but was nowhere to be found.

WordPerfect for the Amiga was, or is, about as rare a creature to be found for the Amiga platform today on physical disks. It’s more like a myth than an actual product that ever existed, except we have magazines from the late 80s, like Amiga World, declaring WordPerfect’s brilliance as proof that it did indeed exist.

WordPerfect 4.1 for Amiga was released in 1987. It later shipped with a separate update disk that pushed it to 4.1.2, but it didn’t sell well at all. Originally, it sold for $395 on the Amiga (equivalent to just over $800 in 2016 dollars), so that didn’t help spread the program like wildfire, either. It was very DOS-like in look and feel and was functionally much like WordStar in many respects. At the time, WordPerfect was criticized for being a non-graphical word processor on a very high-end graphically oriented computer. In 1989, the WordPerfect Corporation announced it would stop developing the software after having lost over $800,000 on the platform and fearing Amiga users simply had to have a GUI. However, “hundreds of Amiga users called the company and left online messages saying they would be satisfied with a program like IBM WordPerfect 5.0.” (Quote from Compute! #111, August 1989.) WordPerfect Corp decided to continue to support the DOS-like program until 1992. This was far better than the Atari ST fared, for what it is worth.

But… where was one to find a physical copy today? Many moons ago, out of bored desperation, I created a Search Alert on Ebay in the off-chance a copy might show up. Every month or two I would get an email alert letting me know someone was selling the original manual.

But then, suddenly, I was alerted to a complete box set, with all disks. Did they work? No idea - buyer beware. They wanted $150, but I somehow won it for only $20. A week later it arrived. Good lord the package felt like it was a solid brick! They didn’t mess around with the 3-ring binder manual.
The massively heavy manual for WordPerfect 4.1 for Amiga

WordPerfect 4.1 for Amiga original disks.

Taking a deep breath I inserted the disk into the floppy drive. It had a “clean” sound when the disk was read. Bad disks often sound worn out and sad just from a simple read. This was that smooth and silky sound with no scary “rrr-rrrr” floppy disk sounds - the sounds of death.

I was able to completely install the the entire package to my compact flash HDD! So far so good.

Then I loaded it up.

Like Wordstar on DOS, it works entirely from a CLI shell window. The program is menu-driven and keyboard driven. And great Zeus the chunky bitmap fonts are the normal, gorgeous Amiga system fonts!

I quickly typed a test document, added a few formatting whistles and bells, and quickly misspelled a few words in my haste along the way. I was not notified by WordPerfect of my mistakes.
Test document (yes, with some spelling errors) typed in WordPerfect for Amiga.

But, can I export the file to a modern system? Can I export my work and save the file with basic rich-text formatting? Yes. I. Can.

If I save as WPD or WP4, and transfer the saved file to my Mac or PC, the result looks totally flawless from my initial tests. This is the answer to writing on the Amiga I’ve been looking for.
WordPerfect document transferred from Amiga to Mac, opened using LibreOffice 5.0.

On my Mac, to open the WordPerfect file, I downloaded open-source Libre Office, which completely handles WordPerfect files, even from the most original file types like WP4 or the more generic WPD.
Saving a file using the menu system

I can even very easily change the color scheme, should I so desire, to even more closely mimic a DOS writing environment by making the background black and foreground text white. Just a few clicks, and I’m ready to write my own book 7 of “A Song of Ice and Fire”, just in case its ever needed. (Hint: It won’t be.)
The UI is easily customizable to use a multitude of color schemes - even a very DOS-like one, if you prefer.

Word processing on the Amiga can happen, be a total joy, and be transferable to modern storage media and word processors with most of the formatting perfectly in place. Period.

If you find a copy (and ADFs are out there if you hunt) and still have your old Amiga nearby, give WordPerfect a try. It really is great. I do not believe this exercise is worth your while in emulation - seriously, what would be the point of that? If you do find ADFs out there and still have your old Amiga box, this is hands down the best Word Processor for you to use, in my opinion.

Note: Apparently there was a 5.0 version created for Amiga at some point, too. If you ever see a copy, let us know! I’ve personally never seen it. I’d love to know what differences there might be between it and 4.1.2 (which feels “perfect” already).

I have made ADFs of this ancient but excellent software and am providing them for your personal use to download here. The ADFs were made from original disks originally created in 1990. They are totally error free.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Fri Aug 12, 2016 5:10 pm

Great find and great write up! You've made me want to seek it out myself... Well, I don't know if I could handle the months of Ebay emails (nice price though) but I'll see what can be had on the adf sites. I'm very curious to see if the formating can be transfered via the Amiga's copy and pasting from program to program. If this is the case Word Perfect would be a great transfer method for those of us who don't really like the interface so much. I have nothing against the system fonts and I like typing in commands in the shell, but I wouldn't want to write an entire document in that thing. I admire your passion on finding your holy grail, however. I would love to be able to write some stuff on both the PC and Amiga on my preferred word processors and then maybe transfer them over to Word Perfect for the saving/transfer. Even if this does not work I do see a use for me with at least transferring stuff from PC to Amiga. All in all a great write up that made me feel like I was on the adventure to find the copy with you! And in the end we were triumphant! haha! Great stuff!

User avatar
Worksop/ UK

Posted Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:04 pm

I have ADF's of both 4.1.2 and 5.0 so when I get the chance I will have a look and see what the difference is. I had a quick look at 5.0 during the other thread conversation but didn't take much notice of the difference beyond the GUI.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Wed Aug 17, 2016 2:53 am

I already tied it out and I could not for the life of me find any difference what so ever other than the version number. What was previously mentioned, that it might have compatibility with Word Perfect 5.0 PC files is incorrect as far as my testing was concerned. Using a modern version of Word Perfect I saved files in 5.1, 5.0, and 4.1 formats and the Amiga could only read the 4.1 files. The build is a 4.1 build, and I'm very curious as to how that was distributed and advertised if at all. I can only find 5.0 online via 2 adf files, and of course Word Perfect came with more disks than just two. When installing it onto my hard drive I was asked for a few disks I did not have and was had to use the 4.1 disks for that, which worked. If any changes were made they must have been for stability I would imagine... Because if they had the nerve to sell that for full price I'm glad they lost their dominance.

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Posted Thu Aug 18, 2016 1:12 pm

Wow. Need more posts like this. Exactly what I would love to do daily on my AMIGA600.

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Posted Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:23 pm

Great post, I think this was one of the first threads I read when I discovered this site. I actually use my Amiga for writing quite a bit, probably do more writing than gaming come to think of it. I used to use the included Notepad program, but then I switched over to ProWrite 3.1.2.

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Posted Sun Jun 25, 2017 9:46 pm

Hi all,
I have the ADFs for Wordperfect 4.1 and cannot for the life of me get these to install or open on a real a1200.
Any ideas on how to install without the floppies?
Thank you.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Mon Jun 26, 2017 2:04 am

If you can get them back to your computer, which I imagine you can if you have the adfs in the first place... than I could send the fully installed program to you. Throw it onto your hard drive... You "may" have to manually assign some disks, but you may not, I'd let you know when I lifted it from the drive.

-If you really want it and can't figure out how to install.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Mon Jun 26, 2017 3:27 am

Check your PMs - Let me know how it goes.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Mon Jun 26, 2017 7:35 am

Hm I know this works on 1200s running 3.1, so something goofy must be going on with your disks. Let us know if Shot's approach works.

I have the originals and could post ADFs if that would help.

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